This is a guest post from Anja Skrba at FirstSiteGuide.
There’s no need to explain how much technology has impacted the business world, (or every aspect of our lives). However, keeping up with new technology can be much more difficult than it seems.
Small and medium-sized businesses often face issues in this way, simply because they normally don’t invest nearly as much as big corporations into their IT departments.
SMB tips for your business
Luckily, there are quite a few different ways your SMB can keep up with the changing trends, and even stay on top of them. SMB tips every small business should take to heart include:
- Defining an IT strategy
- Keeping track of the competition
- Taking advantage of specialized news outlets and publications
- Fine-tuning Google alerts
- Attending webinars and networking events
- Partnering with social media influencers
- Partnering with YouTube vloggers
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps and see why they’re important and what they can do for your SMB.
Defining an IT strategy
Having a well-developed IT strategy can help you keep up with the changes in the digital business world. A good strategy should allow the IT department to be flexible enough, with room to grow and adapt to any changing business objectives.
The first step toward defining or improving the existing IT strategy is to understand the business’ needs. Having a clear idea in mind of where you want your business to be within the next three to five years can assist in developing a sustainable IT strategy.
What most companies focus on here is cutting costs, but it’s important to keep in mind that’s not always a viable option, and could prove to be much more expensive in the long run.
Take as an example the growing popularity of BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. About 6 out of 10 companies have a BYOD policy in place. And that’s not surprising, as it can help many companies cut costs and increase workers’ productivity.
But this brings many risks as well. Allowing employees to use their own devices at work could make your intranet vulnerable to cyber attacks, which, in turn, could lead to financial loss.
While cutting costs is always appealing, when developing an IT strategy, the primary focuses should be risk mitigation and customer satisfaction.
Any strategy that’ll result in minimized risks and more satisfied customers is worth investing in.
Keeping track of the competition
Having a close eye on the competition is essential, whether we’re talking about SMBs or large enterprises.
Paying attention to what the competitors are doing might point you in the right direction when it comes to your own business strategy, and some research will show you what the competition might be lacking.
Quick research will show the current trends, who the biggest players in the market are, and how you can optimize your own business plans in ways that’ll enable you to grow and stand out.
It can help you improve your email marketing campaigns, for example, by analyzing how successful others were, and it can help you think outside the box and come up with better solutions.
A valuable tool here could be a VPN, for example. VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is the current buzzword in the industry, as it provides privacy and anonymity online.
By using a VPN, you could browse through your competitors’ websites without them knowing you’re even there, and you can use the information you gain to improve your own site.
Copying is never a good option, but analyzing and figuring out what the competition might be missing allows you to offer your customers solutions that other companies might not be offering.
Specialized news outlets and publications
Subscribing to specialized news outlets and publications can give huge advantages to SMBs. Every profession has an industry publication, and they can give you insight into the most important trends to look out for and to adopt.
This can serve as another way to keep an eye on the competition, but it can also serve as a source of inspiration.
Since these publications are highly targeted and specialized, you can learn about the current market trends in your niche, and find out how you can optimize your business and attract wider audiences.
Most of these news outlets will help you decide which tech trends to follow, and which ones you can ignore. Over 42% of B2C companies use chatbots, for example. Should your company invest in one as well? Should you hop on the bandwagon and adopt the newest AI technologies?
There are millions of questions that most SMBs have about the digital business world and beyond, and specialized news outlets and publications can assist in answering at least some of them.
Fine-tuned Google Alerts
Google Alerts is among the most underappreciated, yet the most valuable, tools available to SMBs. In short, Google Alerts helps marketers monitor their company’s online presence.
There are quite a few things you can achieve with this free tool, and the first of them is tracking your company’s reputation.
You can easily set up alerts that’ll have you notified whenever your company or boss, for example, is mentioned online. Figure out what others are saying about you online and adjust accordingly.
If your company has a website and a blog, Google Alerts can help you with strengthening your keywords by letting you know how others are using them.
Link-building is among Google’s most important ranking factors, and Google Alerts can help you in this regard as well.
Alerts can notify you any time your business, product, or services are mentioned and provide you with the opportunity to create backlinks. You can answer customer questions on Quora, for example, promote your business, and leave a link to your website.
Webinars, networking events, etc.
It’s difficult for your business to succeed if you aren’t actively trying to improve and find solutions to any problems you might be facing.
Webinars are a convenient solution for keeping you up to date with the most relevant information in your niche, be it optimizing your workflow, adopting new technologies, increasing customer satisfaction, or anything else.
They can educate you on the best solutions to some common and uncommon problems, and give you both knowledge and inspiration to solve them.
Networking events are extremely important as well, primarily because they increase your visibility. Meeting potential customers, clients, or even partners is made possible here.
Attending them is especially useful for startup companies that need to spread the word about themselves.
These events allow you to learn from other business owners, keep up with the market conditions, establish relationships with others, and can have a great impact on your business overall.
No matter how successful you currently are, you can always improve through networking events, webinars, conferences, trade shows, and others.
Social media influencers
The most popular business trend today is partnering with social media influencers. About 89% of companies find that ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or even better than other marketing channels. This only serves to show how beneficial this strategy can be.
Most internet users today have developed the so-called “ad blindness,” where they’ve learned to completely ignore banner ads, pop-ups, and the like.
However, they do trust peer recommendations and influencer suggestions, which is why this kind of marketing strategy has such a high success rate.
Perhaps the best option for SMBs is to partner up with micro influencers. This usually refers to the influencers with a following of about 10,000 to 100,000.
Since these influencers tend to answer comments and engage in discussions more often, it facilitates customer engagement. Their followers place more trust in them and are more likely to follow their suggestions.
If your company is just starting out with posting blogs, you can promote your page and increase website traffic by promoting your blogs through social media influencers. Any product or service that you’re selling can be endorsed by an influencer in your niche who can help you expand your client base.
YouTube is the second most popular social media platform, and YouTube vloggers have a lot to offer to SMBs. Partnering up with vloggers will increase your visibility and help you attract a much wider audience.
Your visibility doesn’t mean much if you don’t target the right audience, however. Partnering with a vlogger in your niche allows you to target your marketing efforts at just the right audience, based on their demographics, interests, locations, and more.
Vloggers have a unique way of connecting to their audience, and the viewers are often emotionally engaged with them. Having the right vlogger promote your products or services can instill more trust in your brand, and will help you create more loyal customers.
Staying on top of trends in technology and keeping up with the changes in the digital business world isn’t easy. However, it can be beneficial.
Following the above SMB tips will not only allow your business to expand, but it’ll ensure better customer satisfaction. At the end of the day, there’s no better customer than a satisfied one.
Anja Skrba is a Content Creation Manager for FirstSiteGuide, an educational website which provides tutorials and guides that help people create, grow and maintain their online presence. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.